Prime Minister Hun Manet has ordered that all state officials, from the national to the sub-national level, who are found to be positive for narcotics will be dismissed from their posts.

“I’ve just signed the order. We will increase the implementation across the whole spectrum of government. This means that all civil servants, members of the armed forces and authorities at the national and sub-national level will be fired if they test positive for narcotics or are found to be involved with drugs,” he said.

“There will be no more tolerance within state institutions,” he added.

Manet issued the warning while addressing the closing ceremony of the National Authority for Combating Drugs’ (NACD) annual meeting, held on the afternoon of February 20. 

“This is to avoid anyone suggesting that these measures are applied to soldiers and police officers, but not to civil servants,” he explained.

In the February 20 order, Manet said a dismissal would not exclude anyone from accepting criminal responsibility, as stated in the law. 

He instructed the relevant authorities to prepare a system which would record those who were fired so they cannot be hired at other state institutions for a certain period, and ordered a working group to consider how long the state employment ban should last.

Manet also made it clear that as long as he remains prime minister, he will not legalise the cultivation of marijuana, saying it would be difficult to control.

He noted that some countries have legalised it, but could not control it in terms of its production and distribution.

Citing a report from Singapore, he said more than half of the drug addicts in the city-state began by using marijuana.

“Anyone who wishes to invest in this should not come to Cambodia,” he said. 

He urged the private sector to join the government in refusing to hire anyone who uses or is involved with drugs. He likened the fight against drugs to “clearing duckweed from a pond”, noting that if holistic measures are not taken, it will return.

The prime minister envisioned that Cambodia’s issue will not develop into a “war on drugs”, as has happened in some countries, saying it would become smaller and smaller and fade away.

“This is our hope and our goal. But we cannot just daydream it. We must put clear measures in place. This must start from within government, which is why I’ve issued the order. 

“The authorities and armed forces at all levels will enforce this work. Previously, we said we would care for addicts and provide them with treatment, but now we will dismiss anyone found to be addicted,” he said.

Manet appreciated the “excellent” work done by the Ministry of Justice to deal with drug trafficking cases, including the publication of guilty verdicts.

He also told the relevant authorities to increase their attention to investigating drug manufacturing operations.

Manet acknowledged that illegal drugs are present in almost every country, including developed nations and those with severe legal consequences, like the death penalty.

Deputy Prime Minister Neth Savoeun, who chairs the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD), said that while successes were made in the previous year, challenges remain ahead. 

“Although we are continuously working to crack down on drug cases, the influx of drugs continues to increase. This is because Cambodia is located next to the ‘golden triangle area’, along with global trends and a complex border infrastructure. We also lack sophisticated tools to detect narcotics,” said the former National Police chief.

“Drug distribution and usage in the community is still happening, and have spread to rural areas. This requires closer attention by law enforcement and the authorities, from the provincial to village level, if drug dealing and using are to be eliminated from our communities,” he added.

Savoeun said the NACD still lacks the resources needed to produce and promote educational messages, songs and entertainment content, which would mainstream drug education to the public. Nevertheless, last year’s educational measures reached over 15 million people.

He noted that many people have received treatment, but was concerned that many addicts had not been able to access rehabilitation due to a lack of facilities, as well as a lack of willingness to send them to treatment centres, whether by their families or local authorities.

He believes that most of the illegal drugs in Cambodia were imported, but warned that recently, there were cases of drugs being manufactured inside the country, sometimes on a large scale. 

The NACD head explained that some drugs were manufactured using legal medicines, which meant production costs were reduced, so they could be sold for less money and distributed more widely.

The meeting attendees committed to eradicating all drugs from Cambodia through measures such as improving public education campaigns and the capacity of the Kingdom’s treatment facilities, as well as the strengthening of international cooperation and efforts to deny manufacturers to establish themselves within its borders.

Savoeun attributed the excellent results of last year’s anti-drug operations to former Prime Minister Hun Sen. 

“As the NACD chair, I am committed to using all of my strength and will to lead the successful fight against drugs and turn our society into a drug-free one, which is healthy and enjoys excellent public order, in line with the seventh-mandate government’s Pentagonal Strategy,” he said. 

In 2023, Cambodian law enforcement agencies investigated 8,063 drug cases, arresting 20,002 suspects and seizing nearly three tonnes of narcotics. In total, over 347 tonnes of drugs and precursor chemicals were destroyed.